Benjamin Joffe is the CEO of +8*, a Beijing-based strategic consultancy focused on Internet and mobile innovation in Asia. Clients include Microsoft, Deutsche Telekom, China Mobile, Sands Capital and Adidas. Benjamin is also the founder of Mobile Monday in Beijing.
Do you think Facebook, Google and other big western Internet players will eventually gain more market shares in Korea?
No… A little bit, since Facebook does not have a local equivalent (Cyworld’s DNA and target population is quite different). Google possibly a bit as they hired some pretty good guy, including my friend Kim Changwon with their acquisition of TNC. However, Naver = search in the mind of Korean users, and Google looks like an old toy for kids compared to Naver’s search.
What is the main model of monetization for social networks on mobile in Korea and Japan?
Cyworld monetizes via virtual goods and advertising. Mixi in Japan uses mostly advertising. Mobile Game Town and Gree in Japan monetize on mobile and mostly via digital goods, associated with in-browser mobile Flash games.
The iPhone raised the bar for all mobile phone manufacturers, so one big trend is the touch screen and wide screen. Another trend is GPS – Nokia is especially keen on that. I don’t expect much technical innovations aside from displays and multi-touch, but the spread of services (most of them already successful in Japan) such as mobile music, mobile advertising, mobile commerce, mobile social networks, possibly mobile books (already a hit in Japan), casual free games as well. Mobile video should be more and more popular but the revenue models are still very unclear. Personally, I find the most interesting is the combination of SNS with location and gaming – a field I worked in back in 2003. Combined with GPS, electronic compass and databases, you can also “point” at things and receive information on them. This will lead to “pervasive” things – somewhat “seeing the Matrix”. Later you’ll be able to point your phone at people or just “detect” them around you, and get info about them (with more or less disclosure). This will change our lives and is not even technically difficult, this is more a business model and service design problem.